18+ Ways to Make LGBT Members Feel Welcome in Your Congregation
June is here, and in honor of LGBT Pride Month, we’re sharing suggestions for welcoming LGBTQ members into your congregation and community. Do you have ideas to add to this list? Leave them in the comments below!
- Celebrate Gay Pride Month (June) with a special Shabbat service. Invite LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer) members to participate and include readings that speak to the experience of being both Jewish and LGBTQ. Consider having a guest speaker deliver a sermon or have a panel of congregants at the oneg to discuss how LGBTQ issues affect their congregational and personal lives.
- Phrase your congregational publicity in a way that is inviting to all people. In your congregational advertising, make sure that the LGBTQ population is speciﬁcally welcomed at all congregational events.
- Review your temple website to make sure that it is welcoming to LGBTQ Jews. Rather than using terms such as “alternative lifestyles” or “non-traditional families,” use language such as, “We proudly welcome members of the LGBTQ community,” or “We welcome LGBTQ Jews and their families.”
- Advertise your congregation’s services and events in local LGBTQ publications. Print-ready ads are available for you to order through the URJ. To view the ads and ordering instructions, please visit the Avodah website on The Tent, and look for the “URJads_LGBT” ﬁle under the Articles and Publications folder.
- When planning singles’ activities, recognize that not all single congregants are looking for a partner of the opposite gender. Appreciate that one who appears “single” may have a partner or spouse of the same gender.
- Design your membership and school forms to be welcoming to a spouse/partner of either gender. Two men or two women living together may represent an established home or family. Make sure all of your forms, such as new member applications, school registration forms and committee applications, are welcoming to and inclusive of LGBTQ members. Many forms use the terms Husband and Wife, or Father and Mother. Instead, use, “Adult 1” and “Adult 2” or “Member 1” and “Member 2.” Many LGBTQ couples have children. On school forms use “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.” In addition to “single” or “married,” offer “committed relationship” or “partnered” as a membership category.
- Be open in your community to sharing in the joy of same-gender commitment and wedding ceremonies by encouraging couples to host an oneg Shabbat in their honor and include a mazel tov in your temple bulletin.
- Publicize and celebrate the anniversaries of all committed couples. When LGBTQ families observe life cycle events in the congregation, make sure to consult with them about who should be included.
- Hold a training program for your religious school staff that includes creating safe and welcoming classrooms, creating inclusive lesson plans, and handling student’s comments in appropriate ways.
- Launch an anti-bullying and “safe space” campaign for your religious school and youth group. Visit the websites of Keshet (“working for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews in Jewish life”) and GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network.
- Honors belong to the entire congregational membership. Make sure that LGBTQ members are honored at services (i.e., opening the ark, reading a prayer or other passage, or lighting the Shabbat candles).
- Acknowledge homosexual victims of the Holocaust at Yom Hashoah services.
- Include LGBTQ concerns in the congregation’s social action agenda, including those related to employment rights and beneﬁts, marriage equality, adoption, military service, health issues, etc.
- Make sure your temple’s employment policies include a statement of non-discrimination based on gender, sexuality or gender identiﬁcation.
- Make sure LGBTQ members are represented on committees and are encouraged to participate fully in congregational leadership.
- Offer a program for the parents and families of LGBTQ members to draw them closer to your community. Consider hosting a chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
- Include speciﬁc LGBTQ content in your social, cultural, and educational programs, i.e., screen and discuss a ﬁlm such as Yossi and Jagger in your congregation’s Jewish ﬁlm festival.
- Comfort those who have lost a partner, child, parent or friend to AIDS. Encourage and support them as they mourn communally.
- Create a list of community resources serving your local LGBTQ community.
Try these other suggested resources:
- The Life Cycle of Synagogue Membership
- The Religious Actiob Center of Reform Judaism’s resource page for LGBTQ Rights
- Kulanu: All of Us: A Program & Resource Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Inclusion
Want to print out this post in brochure form to make available to your congregational leaders? You can find it in in The Tent, the URJ’s online communication and collaboration forum.